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Mailliard, Stéphane
1760 Kilbourne Place, NW
Washington, DC, 20009
E-Mail: maillias@gusun.georgetown.edu

Childhood Recollection

Today is Christmas day. Outside everything is covered by the immaculate snow. The temperature seems tepid like often when it is snowing. There is no noise. Everything is quiet and it is good to be inside, close to the fireplace, where the wood is singing and sighing. The flames are dancing in the living room, which was a barn before. Like the five-year-old little boy that I am, I cannot detach my eyes from this spectacle invariably changing.
The entire house is decorated. The day before my father cut a spruce in the garden. It is a big one, twenty feet tall. Its peak touches the ceiling. Before we go to sleep my father tells us a story of Christmas. That is the story of Michka, the little bear. Michka lives in a wealthy house with a spoiled little girl who is very naughty with him. She is angry with him and she takes him by one leg and throws him hard against the wall. He is fed up. He does not want to stay with her anymore and decides to leave. He walks on the snow whistling softly, happy to be free, to have fled his tyrant. Walking, he meets Santa Claus on his sleigh. He says: "What are you doing, alone in the dark? Jump beside me and help me to distribute the gifts for the good children!" All the night Michka searches in the big bag and puts the toys in the shoes in front of the fireplaces. When they arrive at the last house, a wood hut in fact, Michka searches and searches again into the big bag but does not find anything. There is nothing inside anymore. In the little hut there is a poor boy, sick and alone. So even though he is going to lose his new freedom and he is very sad to leave his new friend, Michka sits down in the used shoes and becomes again the teddy bear he was. As the story ends, we fall asleep, the heart tight.
At midnight, my father will come to wake us up and we will get our gifts. We are in our beds and my first cousin is sleeping in my room. His father is alcoholic and has left his mother. She is not with us tonight and I know that my cousin, who is like my brother, is full of sorrow. We fall asleep tired and impatient. We are dreaming about the toys we asked Santa Claus for.
It is midnight and my father has called for us. Under the spruce covered with candles, there are a lot of beautiful packages. We open one after the other our gifts. My first cousin is expecting a pair of roller-skate. That is the one thing he is interested in. When he opens his last package there are no rollers in it. He falls in tears, totally disappointed, his heart full of a deep feeling of injustice. He is so desperate. He wanted so much this present, that I am feeling desperate too. I am trying to comfort him but there is nothing to do. I have never seen someone so sorrowful at this point in my life.
Now, fourteen years later, each Christmas I feel a kind of fear when it is the moment to open the gifts. I am afraid of not having listened enough to the desires of my children. I hope I will never see this sadness on their faces. For me, and I think now it will be forever, I feel melancholic and I am unable to really appreciate this moment.